Virginia Woolf's Return
What if you could walk in Virginia Woolf's shoes in the classroom and imagine how she might have taught creative writing? What kind of advice might she have given? That's the premise of Danell Jones' audacious The Virginia Woolf Writers' Workshop: Seven Lessons to Inspire Great Writing. To be honest, I was skeptical. Jones has chosen to dramatize Woolf in the classroom, creating little fictional scenes that include Woolf's advice as conjured up by the author. Each chapter ends with a series of exercises. What gives the book legitimacy is Jones's copious research, using Woolf's essays, letters, and diaries as source material. It's clear that Jones loves Woolf and means to reanimate her with respect and fondness. It's still a somewhat jarring effect at first, but as you slide into the book you forget the conceit and become fascinated by the advice. From Killing the Angel in the House (about the value of modesty) to quotes like "A true novelist can no more cease to receive impressions than a fish in mid-ocean can cease to let the water rush through his gills," you do get a coherent impression of Woolf as a creative writing teacher. More importantly, by the end of The Virginia Woolf Writers' Workshop, I realized that I was getting more context and more of some hard-to-define but essential element from encountering Woolf's words clothed in Jones's conceit. So, if you're one of the millions of would-be writers here in North America, pick up this oddly beguiling, lovingly designed guide.